12 Things To Do in Bentonville, Arkansas

Last Updated on February 18, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Nestled in the Ozark Mountains of northwest Arkansas, Bentonville has emerged as an unexpected hub of world-class art, architecture, and cuisine. Though it has fewer than 50,000 residents, Bentonville attracts over 650,000 visitors each year who come to experience the city’s cultural attractions, natural beauty, and outdoor recreation.

From its modest beginnings as a rural community sustained by apple orchards and poultry farms, Bentonville has developed into an economic powerhouse as the home of Walmart’s corporate headquarters. The influx of talent and investment brought by the retail giant has transformed the city’s arts and culinary scenes. The trails, lakes, and parks surrounding Bentonville provide plenty of opportunities for biking, hiking, paddling, and more.

Here are 12 of the top things to do in Bentonville, Arkansas to appreciate its unique blend of small-town charm and cosmopolitan flair:

Marvel at World-Class Art at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

Designed by renowned architect Moshe Safdie, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art houses a permanent collection spanning five centuries of American masterworks ranging from Colonial portraits to contemporary art. Multi-million dollar works by legends like Andy Warhol and Norman Rockwell are on display alongside Temporary exhibitions rotate through to highlight new movements and voices.

Beyond the galleries, Crystal Bridge’s grounds serve as an outdoor venue for sculpture installations, walking trails, and educational programs. The museum continues to expand its imprint on the regional arts scene as a nexus between Bentonville’s community spirit and its increasingly sophisticated cultural offerings.

Taste Your Way Through Bentonville’s Thriving Culinary Scene

Bentonville’s dining scene punches well above its weight class thanks to influxes of corporate transplants, visiting collectors, and food tourists. Brightwater: A Center for Study of Food offers an educational look at the past, present and future of food through tastings, demonstrations and lectures by renowned chefs. For a refined night out, The Preacher’s Son offers a seasonally-driven tasting menu finessed by ingredients from its on-site garden. The quirky Pedaler’s Pub pairs craft brews with an extensive vegan menu served out of a repurposed school bus.

Beyond upscale environs, you’ll find casual eateries celebrating the region’s agricultural bounty, like Tusk and Trotter’s nose-to-tail preparations or the River Grille’s duck confit tacos. And no visit is complete without braving the wait at lines that perpetually snake out the door at regional favorite Hugo’s artisanal pizzas. With so many mouthwatering options, Bentonville promises to satisfy any craving.

Explore the Trails and Lakes of Bentonville’s Outdoors

Northwest Arkansas’ mild climate and abundance of protected natural areas make Bentonville an ideal basecamp for outdoor enthusiasts. Tackle over 40 miles of dirt trails weaving through mature forests, rocky bluffs and creek crossings on mountain bikes available to rent in Downtown Bentonville. Paddle a kayak or canoe along the crystal clear waters created by the damming of Little Sugar Creek at Lake Bentonville.

For leisurely waterside strolls rather than daring whitewater, visit Compton Gardens and Aquatic Center, whose botanical gardens and walking paths encircle a spring-fed lake dotted with pastoral bridges and fountains. If staying dry suits you better, the Razorback Regional Greenway provides a scenic walking and biking path connecting many of Bentonville’s neighborhoods and attractions.

Tour Walmart’s Corporate Headquarters

As the global headquarters of planet Earth’s largest retailer since the late 1980s, a visit to Walmart’s Home Office campus offers fascinating insight into the brand’s immense but often invisible operations. Complimentary tours give you an inside look at the visitor’s center museum charting Walmart’s journey from a single five-and-dime store to multinational juggernaut.

Walk beneath the iconic white water tower that has come to symbolize Walmart’s economic anchoring of Bentonville. And don’t miss posing next to the giant replica of founder Sam Walton’s original 1979 Ford F150, lovingly dubbed “Old Red.” For all its current cutting-edge innovation, Walmart still celebrates its small-town roots.

Sample Craft Spirits on Bentonville’s Urban Wine Trail

Thanks to relaxed small-batch distillery laws enacted in Arkansas in 2019, Bentonville’s arts scene extends to craft spirits as well. Copper Craft Spirits introduces vodka, bourbon and other spirits infused with locally sourced apples, peaches and berries. Its tasting room offers mixology classes and bottle engraving. Just down the road, Damgoode Pies shares a location with the New Province Brewing Company, which offers 32 ever-rotating taps of IPAs, stouts, sours and more to enjoy on its patio.

Sipping your way between craft beverage stops is encouraged along Bentonville’s Urban Wine Trail. Supporting the burgeoning natural wine movement, Tusk & Trotter, Peddler’s Pub, Pressroom and other Trail members offer exclusive pours. Grab a Wine Trail passport to have stamped at five or more spots for a limited edition gift.

Celebrate Local Arts and Shopping on Bentonville’s Downtown Square

Dating back over 140 years, Bentonville’s Downtown Square preserves the city’s traditional charms while integrating modern shops, restaurants and arts spaces. Hit up the Saturday Farmer’s Market running April through November to mingle with locals and take home seasonal produce as fresh as it gets. Nearby Eighth Street Market is an indoor purveyor of artisanal fare as well as a community gathering venue.

The contemporary 21c Museum Hotel Bentonville commissions installation art pieces across its lobby, hallways and Alice Walton Suite. Changing exhibits feature rising talents, often from underrepresented groups. Competitively-priced original works are available for purchase at the hotel’s Museum Shop.

No matter where you roam Downtown, you’re sure to encounter murals and public sculptures invigorating even mundane spaces with artistic energy. Keep your eyes peeled around every corner!

Zip Through the Ozarks at Bella Vista

Just 15 minutes north of Bentonville awaits the verdant property of Bella Vista, whose various family-friendly outdoor attractions earned it the nickname “Arkansas’s Outdoor Wonderland.” Work up an adrenaline rush navigating nearly 10 miles of zip lines spanning lakes, streams and waterfalls at Zip Line Ozarks. Its “Beaver Lake Zipline Canopy Tour” sends you gliding 600 feet across the water!

If you prefer both feet on the ground, try a relaxing 18-hole round of traditional golf or the exploding sport of foot golf on Bella Vista’s seven championship courses. Walkable trails encircle its three pristine lakes. Or explore sites like Cathedral of the Ozarks, an open-air church, and Mildred B. Cooper Memorial Chapel, renowned for its scenic chapel set into a bluff face overlooking the countryside.

Attend a Show at the Momentary Performance Venue

Combining a multidisciplinary contemporary art space with a performing arts venue and hiking trails, the satellite Momentary campus expands Crystal Bridge’s programming beyond gallery walls. Large-scale commissioned installations activate formerly industrial spaces with cutting-edge sculpture, light, and new media works. Past exhibits have transformed rooms into infinite mirrors, alien landscapes, and inverted cities.

The Momentary’s theater hosts musical acts, improv comedy troupes, film screenings, lectures, yoga classes and more. Utilizing adaptive reuse of existing architecture, the recycled tower of an aging seed factory has found renewed purpose as a hub uniting Bentonville’s cultural patronage with grassroots creative community.

Ponder Nature at the Peel Mansion Museum and Botanical Garden

History buffs and green thumbs alike will delight in this “Castle on the Ozarks” built in 1875 and restored into the present-day Peel Museum and Botanical Garden. Once an elaborate private estate, the Peel Mansion retains its Victorian grandeur through ornate original woodwork, potbelly stoves and period furnishings. Interpretive exhibits chronicle generations of the pioneering Peel family.

Outside, specialized gardens invite quiet contemplation alongside blooming perennials, rock formations, and sculptures. The Peace Pole Garden connects visitors to the global movement through interactive totems etched with calls for non-violence in different languages. Lily pads, koi and bullfrogs occupy the Japanese Garden’s ponds and pagoda. Wander this oasis where 19th century luxuries mingle seamlessly with natural splendor.

Test Your Nerves at Warped Paintball Park and Haunted House

Combining beloved Arkansas pastimes like paintball with Hollywood-quality haunted houses during the Halloween season, Warped Paintball Park offers heart-thumping thrills for Bentonville visitors. Navigate through elaborate movie-inspired sets from The Walking Dead, Stranger Things and A Quiet Place with zombies or masked maniacs lurking behind any corner. It’s easy to forget you’re just minutes from Downtown Bentonville!

When it’s not converted into nightmarish scenarios, Warped’s private acreage serves as paintball course with castle turrets, military buildings, junkyard cars and so much more to strategically stalk your opponents and unleash vivid splatters. Friendly rivalries thrive thanks to extensive safety orientation allowing rookies to try and veterans to sharpen their skills. Either choose teams or every player for themselves!

Get Back to Nature at Hobbs State Park

Designated as Arkansas’s largest State Park with over 54 miles of trails, 12,000 acres of lush Ozark scenery, and along the shoreline of Beaver Lake, Hobbs State Park makes an easy escape into the beauty of natural Arkansas just 20 minutes east of Bentonville. Spend hours or days exploring sloping wildlife-filled forests, limestone bluffs, and rocky streams via hike-in primitive campsites and the multi-use Ozark Highland Trail.

Pack a picnic lunch to enjoy lakeside at one of Hobbs State Park’s swimming beaches in warmer months. Rent a kayak. Paddle, marsh boardwalk trails and wetland observation decks provide ample opportunity to spot herons, beaver, and turtles without extensive paddling. However you choose to commune with the lush hills and waterways of this treasured state park, you’re sure to see why it’s one of Arkansas’s most beloved.

Reflect at Bentonville’s Memorials

Beyond blockbuster museums and bucolic landscapes, Bentonville offers moving tributes to the loved ones gone but not forgotten and sacrifices that shaped our world. The Peel Family Cemetery lies within a Victorian garden visited by ghosts on theatrical twilight tours. Abstract sculpture spaces throughout downtown honor pioneers, diversity, lost children and more. But no memorial carries more solemn gravity than the Bentonville Chinese Memorial.

Created by artists commissioned by sister cities Xian, China and Bentonville, this profound tribute recognizes the hundreds of unknown Chinese workers who died building Arkansas’s railroads in the 19th century yet lay in unmarked graves far from their native land. Interpretive plaques cue reflection on immigration, injustice, and the true human cost of American industrial advancement. Few memorials offer such poignant lessons on legacy.

Conclusion

Who expects a small Arkansas town nestled in the modest Ozarks to offer world-class art and dining to rival major metropolises – yet Bentonville delivers and then some! Beyond cultural refinement, it cherishes heritage and champions community. Bentonville promises big city amenities without sacrificing authentic Southern hospitality and charm. From retired executives to visionary creators, its diverse influx of new residents enrich an already vibrant scene where bib overalls mix seamlessly with haute couture.

Ready to experience Bentonville for yourself? Let its generous welcome sweep you up into creekside canopy tours, vibrant murals that transform concrete walls into abstract artworks, and more Razorback pride than you thought a state could hold. Whether sampling its next great tasting menu or glimpsing the wilder Ozarks from a kayak bow, Bentonville won’t just meet your expectations – it will shatter them.

Leave a Comment